Does everyone get Social Security? No. Still, American workers who will not qualify for Social Security retirement benefits are relatively rare. If you are one of them, it is important to know, so that you can obtain other sources of income or determine if you may be eligible. The following are the eight most common categories of workers who lack eligibility for Social Security and therefore are not entitled to receive benefits.
- Some American workers do not qualify for Social Security retirement benefits.
- Workers who have not accumulated the required 40 credits (approximately 10 years of employment) are not eligible for Social Security.
- Those who did not pay Social Security taxes, including certain government employees and the self-employed, are not eligible for Social Security.
- American expatriates who retire in certain countries, and some retired immigrants in the United States, cannot collect Social Security benefits.
- Divorced spouses married less than 10 years cannot claim their ex’s benefits.
1. Workers with very few Social Security credits
Can You Get Social Security If You Never Worked? No, because a minimum requirement to collect Social Security retirement benefits is doing enough work. The Social Security Administration (SSA) defines “enough work” as earning 40 Social Security credits. More specifically, in 2021 a person receives one credit for every $ 1,470 in income and can earn a maximum of four credits per year. So 40 credits are roughly equivalent to 10 years of work.
If you earn the federal minimum wage of $ 7.25 an hour, you will need 202.75 hours of work to receive a Social Security credit. By working just 17 hours a week for 50 weeks at this salary (allowing a two-week vacation), you can earn the maximum credits per year. That means that even those who work part-time in order to attend school or care for a child, or those who work part-time because they cannot find a full-time job, can accumulate Social Security credits without too much trouble.
Credits earned never expire, so anyone who left the workforce with close to 40 credits could consider going back and doing the minimum additional work they need to qualify. You can check the amount of credits you have so far by opening a my Social Security account on the Social Security website and downloading your Social Security Statement.
2. Workers who die before age 62
The minimum age to begin claiming Social Security retirement benefits is 62. If someone dies young, dependent children and spouses may be entitled to survivor benefits. At age 60, for example, widows and widowers can begin receiving Social Security benefits based on the income history of their deceased spouse (disabled spouses can begin at age 50). Terminally ill patients can apply for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), which means that they will still receive some benefit from their contributions to the system.
What if you are terminally ill and have reached the minimum retirement age? If you’re single, claiming right away may be the most sensible strategy. However, if you have a spouse, putting it off can provide more benefits to your spouse, on the advice of Laurence Kotlikoff of PBS News Hour.
If you don’t qualify for Social Security payments, you’ll need to make sure you have enough income to support your lifestyle in retirement.
3. Certain divorced spouses
Divorced people may be entitled to half of an ex’s Social Security benefits. These are usually full-time housewives or stay-at-home parents who did not work. To get benefits, they must be single, 62 or older, and have earned less in benefits based on their own work history than their ex. However, if the marriage lasted less than 10 years, they are not eligible to claim any spousal benefits.
4. Workers retiring in certain foreign countries
US citizens who travel or live in most foreign countries after retirement can generally receive Social Security benefits. However, if that country is Azerbaijan, Belarus, Cuba, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, North Korea, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, or Uzbekistan, the government will not send them Social Security payments. Exceptions may exist in all of these countries except Cuba and North Korea. Use the government’s Payments Abroad assessment tool to see if you will be able to continue receiving Social Security benefits while living abroad.
5. Certain legal immigrants
Legal immigrants who have earned 40 Social Security work credits in the United States are eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Immigrants who do not have enough US credits but who come from one of the 26 countries with which the United States has social security agreements, also known as “totalization agreements,” may qualify for prorated benefits.
These benefits are based on your work credits earned abroad combined with your work credits in the US, an arrangement that is particularly helpful for older immigrants who are unlikely to accumulate 10 years of work in the United States before retiring. However, workers who have not earned at least six US credits cannot receive payments under totalization agreements.
6. Certain government employees
There are some jobs that don’t pay Social Security. Federal government employees hired before 1984 may be vested in the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), which provides retirement, disability, and survivors benefits. These workers do not have Social Security taxes deducted from their paychecks and therefore are not eligible for Social Security benefits. They can still qualify if they have earned benefits through another job or a spouse; however, in these cases, CSRS pension payments can reduce Social Security payments. Government workers who are covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), which replaced CSRS, are eligible for Social Security benefits.
Most state and local employees have Social Security protection under a federal Section 218 agreement. However, some of these workers, including those who work for a public school system, college, or university, do not they will receive Social Security benefits if they do not pay Social Security taxes. They generally receive pension benefits from their employers.
The most a person reaching full retirement age can get in 2021 in Social Security benefits per month
7. Self-Employed Tax Evaders
Self-employed workers pay self-employment tax to cover both their share of Social Security contributions and that of the employer. The tax is calculated and paid each year when these workers file their federal tax returns. Those who do not file tax returns do not pay Social Security taxes, unlike employees whose employers withhold and remit their Social Security taxes from every paycheck.
If you do not have a record of having paid in the system, you will not receive payments. However, if you have not reported income and successfully evaded taxes in your entire life, you are not entitled to Social Security benefits anyway. Your illegally withheld untaxed earnings will have to fund your retirement.
8. Certain immigrants over the age of 65
Retired people who immigrate to the United States will not have the 40 American work credits they need to qualify for Social Security benefits. One way to rectify this problem is to obtain six work credits in the United States and receive prorated US benefits combined with prorated benefits from your previous country under a totalization agreement. This solution makes sense for workers who also don’t have enough benefits in their home country to qualify for the equivalent of that country’s Social Security payments.
Older immigrants who do not qualify for US Social Security and whose country laws allow them to receive benefit payments while residing abroad can claim their social security or retirement benefits while living in the US.
The bottom line
Almost all retirees in the United States receive Social Security benefits when they stop working, assuming they have reached retirement age, of course. However, those who have spent little time in the US workforce, whether due to full-time domestic work or working abroad, may not qualify under their own names. (Some may qualify for spousal benefits, if your spouse qualifies for payments.) Some government workers are also not eligible. Fortunately, some people who don’t currently qualify can still figure out how to do it.